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This study focuses on analyzing and contrasting the processes of noun formation in both English and Igbo languages. The method of data analysis was contrastive, since this research is a contrastive study of noun formation in English and Igbo. The various rules and processes of noun formation in both languages were identified and classified for the purpose of contrastive studies. In trying to find out the similarities and differences, English and Igbo noun formations were compared so as to postulate the degree of possible interference the Igbo learner will have in learning the English as a second language. The researcher applied marching method of contrastive analysis. It was found that all noun-formation processes are generally rule-governed, but these rules are sometimes very complicated and some processes overlap and interpenetrate each other. General similarities appear in both languages, in borrowing, affixation and compounding. Both languages use prefixes and suffixes in noun-formation. Compounding in English is a very productive process, likewise in Igbo. It was also found that unpredictable formations in English: clipping, acronyms, blending and word-manufacture, are not found in Igbo except for clipping which is found in a few Igbo Christian names. Others are in-fixation and compounding. All compounds in Igbo are semantically endocentric, while English offers four types of semantic compounds.


1.0                                      INTRODUCTION

1.1     Background to the Study

Language is a dynamic phenomenon, which takes in new words and thus enables its users to extend its vocabulary. With respect to English, which is used not just as a mother tongue but as a second or foreign language in most parts of the world, new words keep making their ways into the language from time to time. While many of these new words are borrowed from other languages, majority of them are formed. According to Katamba (8) “Speakers of a language do not just commit to memory all the words they know, their competence includes the ability to manipulate rules in order to create new words and unscramble the meaning of novel or unfamiliar words they encounter”.

The term morphology is generally attributed to the German poet, novelist, playwright and philosopher, Johann Wolfang Von Goetha (1749-1832), who coined it early in the nineteenth century in biological context. Its etymology is Greek. ‘Morph’ means ‘shape’ or ‘form’ and morphology is the study of form or forms. In biology, morphology refers to the study of the form and structure of organisms; and in Geology, it refers to the study of the configuration and evolution of land forms. In linguistics, morphology refers to the mental system involved in word formation or to the branch of linguistics that deals with words, their internal structure and how they are formed. Crystal (232-233) in Abdul Muis Ba’dulu (1) defines morphology as a branch of grammar that studies the structure or form of the words, particularly through the use of morpheme.  Morphology therefore, studies the structure of words and their formation from smaller parts.

Anagbogu (26-27) is of the opinion that we entered into a second cycle of morphological evolution with Chomsky’s (1972) Remarks on Nominalization. This is because following Chomsky’s (1952) Syntactic Structures, morphology, according to Keifer (265) was incorporated partly into morphophonemics. Morphology has re-emerged from its two places of confinement, the phonological and syntactic components, because according to Anderson (57), the “programmes for reducing it to other domains have proven over-ambitious”. It remains a paradox to note that the same Chomsky whose publication, Syntactic Structures in 1952 contributed immensely to the disappearance of morphology also in Remarks on Nominalization (1972) made proposal for liberating it from syntax.

So, morphology has come to stay as a vital component of language in its own right, having been incorporated into linguistic theory. The aim of a general theory of morphology is to elucidate certain principles that apply to the structure of words in language (Iloene, 2). Morphology tackles some issues such as: the various component parts of a word, and kinds of principles that determine the ways in which the parts combine together to form the whole. These two principal functions of morphology are to signal various syntactic relations, and to provide elements with which words are constructed.

Morphology has become a subcomponent in generative grammar like the other three- syntax, phonology, and semantics. Anagbogu, (20) lists two branches: inflectional and derivational morphology also referred to as lexical morphology by Matthews (37). Each of these broad areas investigates different aspects of word structure. Inflection is a pattern of change in form undergone by words to express grammatical and syntactic relations e.g. case, number, gender, person, tense, etc. Anderson (1992) posits that inflection is just the morphology that is accessible to and or manipulated by the rules of the syntax. Derivation on the other hand is a process by which lexical items are formed in the lexicon by adding affixes to roots, stems or words, or by uninflected words. The uninflected words are termed lexemes (Matthews, 11).

This study which generally handles noun-formation (sub-field of word-formation) dwells more on derivational morphology rather than inflection. The researcher agrees with Bloomfield’s (222) observations in Anagbogu (21) in connection with the relationship between inflectional and derivational morphology thus: (i) that derivational morphology occurs as ‘inner layers’ while inflectional morphology is manifested as the ‘outer layers’ of words (Gleason, 96; Nida, 99).                                                         

 Examples (1)       a. Fight (verb)

                      b. Fighter (noun) – derivational morpheme

                       c. fighters ─ inflectional morpheme

(ii) He observes that while inflected words cannot form the base of a new word, derived words or stems productively form bases of new lexical items.

In his own contribution, Nida (99) states that derivational morphemes are more numerous in a language than inflectional morphemes. Following Bloomfield (218), Nida (99) states that derivational morphemes change the lexical category of words but inflectional morphemes do not. Illustrating this view he states that ‘...derivational morphemes may verbalize adjectives, e.g. enabler, endear; nominalise verbs e.g. dancer, inheritance; adjectivalize nouns e.g. truthful, really...’  On the other hand, inflectional morphemes do not change category.

(2)       Man (noun)           men (noun)

            Takes (verb)                   taken (verb)

  Structural linguists concluded in their observations that:

a)     Derivational morphology is associated with change of lexical category while inflectional morphology does not change the lexical category of words.

b)    Derivational morphemes occur nearer the root while inflectional morphemes occur further from the root.

c)     Inflectional morphemes are more productive, although derivational morphemes are more numerous.

Matthews (37) makes further distinction between word formation and compounding. According to him, word formation deals with the relations between a complex lexeme and two or more simple(r) lexemes. The crucial difference between the two is that, in word formation, a complex lexeme is directly related to at most one simple(r) lexeme, in compounding, the larger unit is related directly to at most two simple(r) lexemes.”

  Morphology, there is no doubt, is as important as any other branch of linguistics. It is the branch of linguistics that deals with the study of the internal structure of words and how new words are created from the existing ones through the use of various morphological processes namely affixation, compounding, conversion, blending, clipping, reduplication etc. (O’Grandy and Guzman,132-180). Lexical morphology is that branch of morphology that deals with the lexicon, which morphologically concerned is the collection of lexemes in a language. As such, it concerns itself primarily with word formations: derivation and compounding. According to Martin (2002), it is a universally accepted fact that the lexicon is the most essential element in language processing. Without knowledge of words, no language can be understood. If the words in the language are examined more closely, many words appear to have internal structure.

The need for word formation is spurred by the fact that no language on its own, being static can manage the ever increasing intricacies of human and material development all over the world. Thus, no words of any living language are either static or exhaustive; rather they continue to increase in number and complexity to meet community demands. This accounts for both creative and productive creatures of language. This attribute of language according to Iloene in Ore Yusuf (188) permits it to change the form or structure of a word to form new words from the existing words of a language in a systematic and rule-governed manner. The rules that govern these activities are called morphological rules, while the activities are called morphological processes. There are many derivational processes of word formation across languages. One of such processes is nominalization.

Ruwet (173) defines nominalization as “essentially the conversion of a sentence into a noun phrase... by means of transformation that embeds a transformed version of a constituent sentence in the position of a noun phrase in a matrix sentence.” This definition is somehow limited to sentence transformation, losing site of morphological processes. The researcher agrees more with Crystal’s (242) concept of nominalization thus: “the process of forming a noun from other word class.”  As in:                                                                             strict + ness→ strictness

  Holy + ness→ holiness

  Lonely + ness→ loneliness


  Judge + ment→ judgement

  Adjust + ment →adjustment

Nominalization for Comrie and Thompson (349) simply refers to “turning something into noun”. The definitions above confirm that the process of nominalization can form a noun or noun phrase, and can be in operation on any lexical category, phrase or clause.

      Nominalization as a morphological operation is employed to fill lexical gaps in many natural languages. The various derivational processes that result in nominalization vary from language to language. The analysis of such processes also varies with analysts.

          In Igbo, for instance, opinions are divided on whether or not certain nominals are derived from sentences (Emenanjo (1982), Onukawa (1995). The availability of nominal compounds has also been vigorously defended in Oluikpe and Nwaozuzu (1995). It is a consensus, however, that noun can be derived from other word classes in most languages. Nominalization in the Igbo language emanates mainly from the verb. Some of the nominals in the language have their etymology from different verbs. From verbs, verbal derivations like infinitive, gerund, adjectival noun, etc can be derived.

 Noun formation is a sub-field of word formation, which is a branch of lexical morphology, defined as ‘the study of morphological relations among lexemes’ (Matthews, 37). Noun formation according to Abdul Mahmod Ibrahim (1) has not been treated separately as a subject in itself, but only within the broader subject of word formation; and there is no separate methodology to be followed. According to Bauer (6), there is no one body of accepted doctrine of the subject to be followed, so that researchers largely have to make their own theory and procedures as they go along.

1.2.                   The Igbo language

The Igbo language, spoken by the Igbos, is one of the major Nigerian languages, and has over twenty million native speakers. An estimate of one to two million other Nigerians speak it as a second language, and it is also spoken by another three to five million people in Diaspora (Linux, 2010). Igbo is spoken in various dialects in Abia, Anambra, Enugu, Ebonyi and Imo states, all in the eastern part of Nigeria (Eze, n.d). However, it is spoken by a sparse population in some parts of Delta and Rivers states. Igbo language is a member of the Kwa Family of Niger-Congo, a language family that is characterized by high and low tones which apply different meanings to the same set of phones (Gale Group Inc, 1999). Igbo exhibits a rich agglutinative morphology (UCLA, 2009). Other identified processes include interfixation and circumfixation (Abakporo, 2001). Most morphological processes of Igbo language can be generalized as affixation. Crystal (1980), Osuagwu (1997) and Abakporo (2001) define affixation as the addition of a lexical item to a stem, and the attachment of an operand to an affix.  Affixation has also been defined as a morphological process that entails the concatenation of a root word and an affix (Abubakre, n.d). Ndimele (1999) introduced another dimension in his definition of affixation, apart from the fact that affixation is the process of attaching a root or base word. Ndimele (1999) also notes that the position and function of an affix when attached to a root is definitive of the category of that affix. Hence, there exist prefixes, suffixes, infixes, interfixes, circumfixes, superfixes and suprafixes in the positional classification of affixes. An affix is a linguistic component that yields either an inflected or derived form of the word it is concatenated to. Plag (2002) defines it as a bound morpheme attached to a root. An operand is the form that an affix is attached to. For Igbo language, prefixes, suffixes, interfixes, superfixes apply (Abakporo, 2001).

Igbo is an isolating language with relatively little morphology. That is to say, grammatical information is for the most part encoded word-externally on discrete root morphemes as opposed to word-internally via a series of affixes. As is typical of Kwa languages, the majority of Igbo words are morphologically simple, showing little to no morphological structure. Igbo verbs, however, do bear a modest amount of morphological structure. Verbs inflect for tense (past, present, future) and aspect (progressive, perfective, durative, inchoative), via both prefixation and suffixation... (UCLA, 2009).


      Reduplication is a productive derivational morphological process in the language (for example, it is the primary means by which verbs are nominalized). Syntactically, verbs are among the most complex category of expressions in the language. Cognate object constructions (verbs taking identical de-verbal nominal objects), serial verb constructions (verbs followed by other verbs without mediation of coordination or subordination), and complex verbs (verb forms comprised of two distinct and often semantically non-compositional roots) according to UCLA (2009), are all widely attested in the language. As in other Kwa languages, very few adjectives and prepositions exist in the language. Nouns do not overtly bear marking of case. The basic clause order in Igbo is SVO.

1.3.         The English Language

At the beginning of the 19th century according to Oghiator (1), English was the native speech of barely 15 million people. It is spoken in many countries of the world as official Language. At present, English is the most widely studied Language in area where it is not native. The use of English is widespread in international trade, scholarship, and scientific research. More than half of the world educational journals (including scientific and technical journals) as well as newspapers are printed in English. Most of the world’s mails are written in English and the majority of the world’s radio and television stations use English in their broadcast (Lawrence, T.L. etal, XI). Historically, English belongs to the Germanic branch of Language. (Lawrence, T.L. etal, XI) In the 16th century A.D, three Germanic tribes: the Angles, the Saxons, and the Jutes invaded England. The integration of their three dialects resulted in old English which also emanated from tribal migrations and invasions. The vocabulary of English is on the increase because of its methods of word-formation. Words are derived in English in different ways, such as; borrowing from other Languages; compounding; addition of affixes; functional shift and imitations of sounds, (Lawrence, T.L. etal, XV, XVI). In Nigeria, English is the official Language and Language for commerce and industry. English is used at all levels of education in Nigeria. Biodun Sofunke (34) citied Osaji, who suggested that the “needs of international viability in the modern world”, among others “dictates the adoption of English as the official national Language?     

1.4.    Statement of Problem

English and Igbo belong to different language families. Consequently, it is axiomatic that the syntactic, semantic, morphological and phonological components of the two languages will be different. At the same time, some linguistic processes present in one language may be absent in the other and vice versa. Morphology is one of the four relevant aspects of the structure of every language and it deals with word structure and word formation. Different languages form words differently and in various ways. Owing to this, a contrastive study is being carried out on noun formation in Igbo and English language to examine the English and Igbo processes as they relate or differ from each other.

1.5.            Purpose of the Study

  This study is an attempt in contrastive analysis aimed at identifying, analysing and contrasting the processes of noun formation in both English and Igbo languages. The study also aims at revealing the possible universal of the two languages in the field of noun-formation, and to determine as much as possible the similarities and differences between them and their potential productivity for pedagogical purposes.

1.6.           Significance of the Study

  By implication, this contrastive study, no doubt, will reveal the linguistic universals between the two languages, English and Igbo. Although this study is essentially theoretical, it will be valuable in the field of education. It will show the differences between the two languages, therefore, it can predict the potential learning problems and difficulties that the learners of either language may encounter in the process of learning.

  It is assumed that aspects of similarity will facilitate learning the second language, especially if a rule in L1is identical to a rule in L2. The process of noun-formation is an effective aid to word-formation and consequently to increasing the corpus of the vocabulary of the language.

1.7.         Scope of the Study

This study centres on the description of how English and Igbo nouns are formed, to ascertain in which aspects the two languages are alike and in which they differ. It includes two main processes – description and comparison. This study is interested in the actual realization of the universal features in the two languages, and their potential productivity for pedagogical purposes.   

1.8     Research Questions

1.    What are the differences in noun formation between English and Igbo Languages?

2.    What are the similarities in the noun formation between the two languages?

3.    What are the universals of the two languages in the field of noun-formation?


Title page    -        -        -        -        -        -        -        -        -        i

Approval page -   -        -        -        -        -        -        -        -        ii

Certification                   -        -        -        -        -        -        -        -        iii

Dedication -        -        -        -        -        -        -        -        -        iv

Acknowledgments         -        -        -        -        -        -        -        v

Abstract      -        -        -        -        -        -        -        -        -        vi

Table of contents  -        -        -        -        -        -        -        -        vii


1.0 Introduction             -        -        -        -                  -        -         1

1.1     Background to the Study                  -        -        -        -        -        1

1.2     The Igbo language                   -        -        -        -        -        -        8

1.2.         The English Language    -        -        -        -        -        -        10

1.4.    Statement of Problem    -        -        -        -        -        -        11

1.5     Purpose of the Study     -        -        -        -        -        -        12

1.6     Significance of the Study                  -        -        -        -        -        12

1.7     Scope of the Study                  -        -        -        -        -        -        13

1.8     Research Questions       -        -        -        -        -        -        13

CHAPTER TWO: LITERATURE REVIEW   -        -        -        14

2.0 Introduction   -        -        -        -        -        -        -        -        14

2.1     Theoretical Studies        -        -        -        -        -        -        14

2.1.1 Contrastive Analysis: Theoretical Considerations                   -        14

2.1.2 Word Formation   -        -        -        -        -        -        -        17

2.2     Empirical studies -        -        -        -        -        -        -        22

2.2.1  Empirical studies on Contrastive Analysis -        -        -        22

2.2.2  Empirical Studies on Noun Formation                -        -        -        24

2.3     Summary of Literature Review         -        -        -        -        -        33

CHAPTER THREE: METHODOLOGY         -        -        -        -        37

3.0     Introduction                  -         -                  -        -        -        37

3.1     Design of the study                 -        -        -        -        -        37

3.2     Data Collection Technique      -        -        -        -        -        38

3.3     Method of Data Analysis        -        -        -        -        -        -        38


4.0.    Introduction                   -        -        -        -        -        -        -        39

4.1.    Research Question 1      -        -        -        -        -        -        39

4.2.    Research Question 2      -        -        -        -        -        -        46

4.3     Research Question 3      -        -        -        -        -        -        51


AND CONCLUSION   -        -        -                  -        -        57

5.0     Introduction         -        -        -        -        -        -        -        -        57

5.1     Discussion of Findings -        -        -        -        -        -        57

5.2.    Implications of the Study       -        -        -        -        -        59

5.3.    Conclusion -        -        -        -        -        -        -        -        62

5.4.    Recommendation for Further Research      -        -        -        62     





Abakporo, T. S. The Processes, Methods and Problems of Morphemic Analysis (Masters       Thesis), College of Humanities, Imo State University, Nigeria, 2001. Print.

Abdul R. Mohamed, Li-lian Goh, and Eliza Wan- Rose. English Errors and   Chinese Learners. Sunnway College Journal, 1: 83-97. 2004. Print.

Abdul Mahmoud I.I. ‘Noun Formation in Standard English and Modern Standard Arabic: a contrastive Study.’ Journal of Language Teaching and Research, vol. 1, No 5, pp. 614-623. Academy publishers, Finland. 2010. Print.

Abubakre, S. O. Affixation in Hausa and Eggon: A Comparative Analysis. (n.d). Retrieved from http://www.unilorin.edu.ng/publications/abu bakare/AFFIXATION%20for%20EDE.htm

Akpojisheri, M.O. English Language: A Vehicle for National Development.

Nigerian Journal of Research and Production. Enugu: Nigeria Researchers Forum. 2009. Print.

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